Tag Archives: London

film screening

Hi everyone. If you are in London, come down to the Hackney Attic on August 28 at 7.30 pm. TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is screening at the Hackney Attic Film Festival alongside several other fine films in the Documentary Shorts programme. It will be a great evening! Best of all, it’s FREE!


Tickets bookable here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1256360871050516/

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Eugène Delacroix exhibition at The National Gallery – first thoughts


[Women of Algiers in their Apartment (French: Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement)  1834 oil on canvas Eugène Delacroix; source Wikimedia Commons. Picture is in the Louvre]

The National Gallery’s Delacroix exhibition is billed as ‘Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art’ which means that there’s not as much Delacroix as one might like. It’s more focused on seeing the great “Romantic” painter as a profound influence on the ‘Modern’ artists, such as the Impressionists and post-Impressionists. There are some interesting relationships made, especially with Renoir, who seems to have learned a lot about colour from Delacroix but Renoir had more, new paints to have fun with, thanks to industrialization.

One thing s that is particularly intriguing is the linking of Delacroix to Kandinsky. The final picture in the show is Kandinsky’s ‘Study for Improvisation V’, painted in 1910. The fascinating thing that links these two artists is their development of ideas about colour (expressed in Delacroix’s Journals and in Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art). This would be a great show in its own right, but it’s not really discussed here. But I doubt that Delacroix specifically influenced Kandinsky at all. I mean, Kandinsky no doubt saw Delacroix’s work in Paris and no doubt was impressed but – so what?

I do have a big problem with the way Art History is often done, as a linear progression of “influences.” Influence happens all the time, and it’s not linear. People see (and hear) stuff and this finds its way into their work. Of course it happens, but sometimes I wonder if the art history approach (at least as it is offered up in exhibits like this) is a bit too reductionist.

I found myself really impressed with Delacroix’s paintings of North Africa. Painted (deliberately) long after he’d seen the places, these are vibrant with colour and movement. ‘Women of Algiers in their Apartment’ (above) is particularly glorious. Delacroix avoids the overt exoticisation seen in some of the works by his “Orientalist” followers, notably Theodor de Chasseriau, whose work is featured here.

This was just my first visit to the show, and I’ll go again so maybe I’ll have more thoughts. I want particularly to think about how Delacroix’s imagery is repurposed in cinema.

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Art History for Film Makers Facebook page

I have set up a FB page for readers of my book Art History for Film Makers and anyone else who’s interested in the junction between art and cinema.

here’s the link


I would love it if people would actively engage with the subject, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile here is some Eugene Delacroix in advance of the exhibition opening at the London National Gallery on 17 Feb – I have an opening day ticket (excited)


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Titian and me… art history and cinema


on the left you’ll see my new book ART HISTORY FOR FILM MAKERS which hits the stores later in February. It’s a gorgeous imprint, I’m very pleased to see how high quality it is – lovely paper, great full colour images.

On the right is a book about the wonderful painter Titian, one of the pioneers of ‘cinematic painting’. I want to recommend him and his fantastic works.  I didn’t write this book but I wrote about Titian in ART HISTORY FOR FILM MAKERS  and am writing about him in my new book.

Below is an example of what’s in the book. This is a discussion of matte painting and cinema and the extraordinary production design of Alfred Junge in Black Narcissus. This film (directed by Michael Powell) was set in the Himalayas and is very convincing – despite the fact it was all filmed in a studio in London. A beautiful film.


Bacchus and Ariadne, by Titian

and this is Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian. I love going to see it in the National Gallery

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TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is now Officially Released

The street art documentary I made is now available to view online.


TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is now Officially Released online for free viewing. Go to http://film.kingslandmural.co.uk
Please share freely.


 “In a forgotten corner of East London, in the shadow of the Olympic site,  artist Nazir Tanbouli is battling weather, vandalism and lack of funds, to create a massive mural installation throughout a condemned housing estate.”

After doing the rounds of the festival circuit including Sheffield Docfest and Portobello Festival in London, as well as screenings all over the place as far afield as Hungary and Egypt, it’s time to make the film more widely available since the fact is not that many people actually go to film festivals 🙂

More info, including full crew list and lots of material about the film as well as my still photography,  is at http://kingslandmural.co.uk/

chld-02 estate-01

dual-wall rain2 wetwall

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is it my imagination or …?

Every place that used to be something or offer something has turned into a place for swilling endlessly.
The bookshop now serves food. The library has a cafe; in fact the cafe is much busier than the library. The urban garden does coffee and sandwiches. So does the supermarket just in case while you are shopping for food you are overcome by hunger and need to eat.
Even the bicycle repair place is also a coffee shop.


What is going on? Why is every second shop a restaurant or café? Some streets, such as Broadway Market, used to have actual shops, but now it is just one whole street of food (with 3 bookshops which, so far anyway, mercifully don’t serve food).
Why do people eat all day long, even in the street? Can nobody just live for a few hours without grub?

I mean, for sure sometimes you do have to grab a bite when you’re out all day long, but I can’t understand why and how, overnight a hardware store for instance shuts down, then in 24 hours it becomes a café and is immediately full of people all stuffing themselves like they have never had access to food before.
It’s not like people are using the cafés in the old-school way, to meet with friends and have, like Surrealist meetings like Andre Breton used to in the Café Cyrano, or Sartre and de Beauvoir in the Deux Magots. No they are just sitting there alone swilling very expensive coffee and chunks of cake bathed in the blue glow of their Macbook Pros.
It’s all a bit – well, not depressing exactly, but perhaps dispiriting.


Swill swill swill, nothing else to do.

2013-02-12 15.35.50cuppa

you could just wait till you get home 🙂

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‘unavailable’ again (damn it)

I am really wondering – and  not for the first time – what on earth is the point of London having any theater reviews whatsoever. Because by the time the review appears in print, the well reviewed show has long been sold out. Unless you have a membership to a theater organization, you will not even know what the season’s schedule is. Most of us don’t have season tickets were memberships, because they are very expensive.
I will make one exception – I have a season ticket to the fantastic Arcola theater in Dalston, which continually programs excellent theater pieces; last year’s waiting for Godot was a standout. Arcola also do a great deal of outreach work and have built their reputation over the last  decade and a half from the ground up
But to be completely honest, the capital’s principal subsidized theaters are well out of the reach of the majority of the population who are occasional theatergoers, or even possibly potential theatergoers who have not yet taken the opportunity. It is just far too difficult to get tickets for the plays which are considered to be the most excellent.
It is probably not the best way to woo new audiences.

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Last Sunday I participated in a fascinating presentation and discussion around critical urbanism. Alongside film maker Andrea Luka Zimmerman and artist Cathy Ward, we discussed the position of art and the city, the role of social housing and how artists can avoid or minimise being instrumentalized particularly by developers.

These are all huge issues in today’s city. Today’s city, especially London,  is a place where social housing is being demolished to make way for luxury flats – often bought as investments and left untenanted.  Where workers such s paramedics, nurses, teachers and other professionals can never afford to buy a house or rent anything decent so they have to think twice about raising a family.

Iain Sinclair referred once to artists as the “shock troops of the developers” and he was right. In the past, it was simply about artists paving the way by making a place a bit trendy. This happened in my neighbourhood of Hoxton-Shoreditch. When I moved here as a student it was a wasteland. Aside from the Bricklayers’ and Charlie Wright’s there was nothing. You could not even get a cup of coffee. Now coffee is about all you can get, as many more functional businesses have shut up shop. In many ways I welcome that change since at least most of the social housing is intact (with some disgusting exceptions) and I like coffee (although we see to have gone from the sublime ot the ridiculous, in cups of coffee per head of population).

But now developers are actually actually instrumentalizing art and co-opting artists to make developments seem more attractive and to create a façade of a ‘give back’ to the ‘community.’ This is almost always less than it seems. Also I notice that, in an area such as East London which is so ethnically and culturally diverse, the artistic profiles championed are very white and middle class! Typified by the posh white boys doing Banksy-lite (lite as in, without political content) on a  developers hoarding. Or the other posh white boys doing a big ‘street art’ piece in Shoreditch High St – oops no wait it is actually an ad for Red Bull. (where do the developers find these guys anyway? Did they go to public school with them)

Is there another way? This is what we talked about and we offered our own experiences – and art works – and discussed the positives and negatives. What was great is that we found some like minded people at the event, and the conversation began. We did not go there with solutions, but with a desire to find solutions – and that is for the long haul not a 2 hour slot.

Coda – one of the most hilarious things has to be the naming of one development as Avant-Garde Tower.  It’s just off Brick Lane – traditionally an area of high-visibility immigrant culture – when I first visited London it still had a Jewish presence (a kosher café on Whitechapel High St was a haunt of mine), but was largely Bangladeshi except on the Sunday ‘Cockney’ market. Over the years it became a trendy go-to market and entertainment district, and it is definitely a lot of fun. Many of the houses there were incredibly run down. So it is good that new housing has been built – but I do object to it being all ‘luxury’ i.e..totally unaffordable to the average citizen, and the egregious use of the term avant-garde is just laughable.

On the other hand, the real meaning of avant-garde is ‘the foremost division or the front part of an army; advance guard; van.’ If the purpose is to cleanse the city of its working class population with military precision, then perhaps it is the vanguard, and it is aptly named.

(Jeez I remember studying Marxist theory at uni and it was just a theory … Pass the exam, move on.

Now it’s become a handbook for living, for negotiating the reality around us.)2013-11-10 12.40.03

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I just had my official London screening debut for taking over the Kingsland, at the Portobello film Festival. London has many festivals, of different types from the grandiose London film Festival, which brings feature films from around the world, to the Raindance Festival, which is a mix of different types of things, to small specialist festivals and even neighborhood festivals. It means that almost any night of the year you have a chance to go and see really cool films in London, many of them by independent filmmakers from all parts of the globe. It’s such a stimulating place to live and to be a filmmaker.

Portobello film Festival is one of the most interesting of the festivals. For one thing it is huge, they program a lot of films and they have several venues and it’s extremely eclectic. The principal venue is really impressive, it’s a pop-up cinema, which is located under the Westway, the massive elevated freeway that runs across West London. They constructed the cinema underneath it, with a giant 30ft screen, and outside a sort of courtyard with a bar and partying space etc. It has a really great atmosphere, it’s extremely chilled out and because the festival is free, it encourages people to come, come and come again and participate.

Because my film is about street art and culture, it seemed to me to be the perfect environment to screen the film and it seemed that when I was watching the film and seeing the responses of the audience, though, is really right. I also really appreciate the fact that the festival is free, since my film and the project it is about, was all about being outside of the ‘cash nexus’ …

Portobello film Festival has a really amazing essay about the neighborhood the Portobello Street Notting Hill area, which is extremely interesting and has fascinating history. Although many people may be familiar with ‘Notting Hill’ from the totally fakey movie with Hugh Grant, it’s actually a much more diverse and quirky area. Even though it has been to a large extent colonized by the Uber rich, like most of London, it hasn’t completely sunk in the swamp of oligarchy. Anyway, there’s a fantastic little article on the Portobello film Festival website, which you can look at here


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TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND at Sheffield Docfest

VideoTech_logo_01 sdf

Sheffield Docfest has begun!  It’s the first day and yes, the weather is appalling, so far. Luckily though, the films are indoors.

TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND has just screened at the Puny Gods Cinema in Exeter and is now at the Sheffield Docfest, the UK’s biggest and most important film festival for documentaries.  The film is 23 min long and is in the festival Videotheque, available to all the festival delegates.

Arts docs are notoriously difficult to place since many people associate the documentary genre to social issues, or art history. TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is a portrait of  an artist, and of a remarkable project set in the world’s greatest metropolis.

Short synopsis:

What on earth is an Egyptian doing painting the walls of a condemned block of flats in East London? As the city prepares for the 2012 Olympics, the Kingsland social housing estate lies in ruins, synonymous with crime and brutality. Taking Over The King’s Land follows artist Nazir Tanbouli and his self appointed task to take over the condemned housing estate and cover it with art. He battles the endless rain and the bitter weather of the “British summer.” Can art counter the urban atmosphere of deprivation, blight and neglect? Can it help Naz come to terms with life as an émigré Egyptian in London?


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